The work of Delhi born painter Swagata Bose, embodies the artist’s strong connection to the world around her. Her mission is not just to capture the image of what she sees, but to transcend the seen, and imbue her works with qualities that describe more than merely physical form. She seeks to express the unseen spirit that brings form to life. The artist specifically chooses subjects with which she feels a profound connection, and it is this heart-felt empathy that allows her to uncover the hidden dimensions in her representation.
Bose comes from a family of intellectuals, and her interests are widespread. Her main focus is the human condition, as a general subject for discussion and debate. However, at the same time, she is relentlessly interested in the history, culture, and religions of the Indian sub-continent, and relates these to the diversity of contemporary life that they underpin.
The main body of work of Swagata Bose is concentrated on the figurative, for which she holds a passion and fascination. For Bose, the nude is the most sincere, and vulnerable, portrayal of the human soul. When people are stripped of all the signifiers that tell us who they are, and lead us to pass judgement, we are left with the purity of the person. Finding new ways of expressing this quality has been a lifelong pursuit for Bose, which she explored in her acrylic painting series LA Venus, The Being and The Body. This consists of 28 large, 5-6ft, canvases of textural female nudes. The figures, set on dense, dark backgrounds, are painted as if bathed in light, and appear to project beyond the surface of the canvas.
State of mind during the act of creation is another vital aspect of her production. There are two sides to this. Firstly, she allows herself to open up to self-criticism, as she seeks to challenge her preconceptions, and move beyond her artistic comfort zone. The second aspect is contemplation of the subject itself. She takes her role as translator of Life into Art very seriously. She is the guardian and protector of how her subjects are portrayed, and contemplates this position with great intensity while she works, as it is a responsibility not to be taken lightly. As a result, an affirmative connection between the paint medium, the tools used to apply it, and the hand, and philosophical gaze of the artist towards the subject matter, can be witnessed as the work progresses.
The starting point is often a fluid gesture of form on the canvas, in monochromatic tones. Drips of paint, and roughness of line are allowed and embraced. The process then becomes reactive as she responds to the elements of light and dark, positive and negative space, surface, line and colour, etc, that emerge as she continues to work. The initial phase of mark making creates the energy and essence of the piece, which is then examined and refined. The aim is to work on the formal aspects, while at the same time retaining the energy of the original mark making, and also overlay something new that represents the extra dimension of the unseen of the subject.
When Bose took part in the residency at ArtFunkl in 2012, it was her first time in Europe. Inspired by finding herself in surroundings with which she was so unfamiliar, she took the opportunity to break away from traditional styles of painting. Instead she created an installation work, Silence Finds An Expression, that combined sculpture, collage, drawing, painting, and writing. This was a reversal of her usual approach in that the starting point was philosophical thinking, via the writings, and the work evolved as an intuitive response to these.
The freedom that derived from upending her process allowed her licence to be creative outside the boundaries of a canvas, a safety zone that she was accustomed to. This in turn generated renewed ideas, and energy which fed back into her on-going art practice. Since her time at ArtFunkl Bose has continued exploring her figurative work. She has developed and refined her method to evolve her distinctive, and personal artistic language. Her recent painting of a chestnut mare “Tara” illustrates her constantly growing confidence, particularly in the boldness of her line and use of colour. The horse is in a static pose, yet full of life and energy. It’s hard to believe that she was not painting a real horse, but in fact the painting is purely from the imagination, and from Bose’s long time love and study of horses, how they are, and how they move.
Over the past few years Swagata Bose has had many shows in Kolkata, West Bengal, where she lives. Her most recently exhibited works, at Gallery Gold, Kolkata, are from her series “Censoring Nudes”. These consist of five canvases (24” x 18”) of expressive nudes, with transparent strips of paint over the areas that would normally be subject to censorship in India. The artist wished to express concern over the limitations placed on the freedom of artistic expression, when such restrictions are implemented.
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